Classic crime in the blogosphere March 2013 – Women’s Mystery Month

'The book demonstrates Holding’s great gift as a writer, a precise emphasis on the inner life of her characters.'

‘The book demonstrates Holding’s great gift as a writer, a precise emphasis on the inner life of her characters.’ – all of which the cover designer chose to ignore.

So, I keep seeing passing references to it being Women’s Mystery Month. I don’t know who has decreed this, or who organised it, or whether we should all get some time off from work, but I have decided to mark this entirely fictional celebration by restricting my monthly blog round-up to female authors only.

Focusing on women writers has in fact alerted me to a few authors I haven’t really engaged with, and not least, one I hadn’t even heard of. Jane Hinkson at profiled The Godmother of Noir: Elisabeth Sanxay Holding:

In her time, Holding sold well and was highly regarded by her peers. No less an authority than Raymond Chandler called her “the top suspense writer of them all.” The critic Christopher Morley wrote of one of her books, “This is the kind of thing I recommend to a few like myself who find the purest refreshment in hallucinations and horrors, in damnation, dipsomania, and dismay.”

Hinkson looks at why Holding has disappeared from view (I don’t think she had ever come into mine), suggesting it might be because she was a distinctly matriarchal woman in what became a man’s field.

The estimable Margot Kinberg produced an ‘In the Spotlight’ feature on Gladys Mitchell’s The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop – the second of the 66 Mrs Bradley mysteries.

[Mrs Bradley is] hardly a demure housewife. She’s got a strong personality – almost an air of command – and a way of making people do what she wants. That includes the police even though both [policemen] Grindy and Bidwell resent what they see as amateurs meddling in police work. Mrs. Bradley is physically unattractive and dresses very badly. But she is compelling, fascinating and has a compassionate side. She is an unmistakeable presence.

Christina at You Book Me All Night Long looks at regency romancer/mystery writer Georgette Heyer’s Death in the Stocks.

As someone who loves a good period piece, I found this an extremely fun book to read. The mystery is perfectly fine, with some interesting little twists and red herrings.

Obviously, Agatha Christie popped into my inbox a few times. Mike at Only Detect revisited Christie’s Murder at Hazelmoor (1931), asking if he wasn’t too harsh in his initial view of the book:

Christie, in a rare lapse, then lets the tone shift and the narrative lose focus. Carefully controlled suspense gives way to light romantic comedy, as a spirited lass named Emily Trefusis sets out to clear her fiancé of a murder charge. Alternative suspects multiply, and a diffuse and unruly investigation ensues. Sleuths, too, are more abundant than they should be. Competing with Emily is Inspector Narracott, the detective of record, along with another official who turns up late in the game.

Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea awarded 5 biscuits (they look like chocolate chip cookies to me) to A Murder is Announced.

I can assure you that it’s brilliant and it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat all along. Great plot, great writing, an absolute must-read for any crime fiction fan looking for a gripping story.

An equally enthusiastic Tasha at the Project Gutenberg Project took a good swing at Dorothy L. Sayers’s Whose Body? (1923).

Around the 25% mark I wanted Lord Peter to either solve the case and start a new one–because the novelty factor of this one was closing fast–or for something else to happen to move the story forward. Instead nothing happened and the book felt like it went on FOREVER, and it’s a pretty short book.

I feel that way about the less prominent Sayers books myself.

Finally, Curt at the Passing Tramp looks at golden age author Anthony Gilbert.

The sleuth in the Gilbert books from 1936 onward, the earthy, pugnacious, Cockney lawyer Arthur Crook, was considered an original contribution to the great phalanx of fictional detectives.

And no, I haven’t forgotten my theme. What Curt points out is that Anthony Gilbert was, in real life, Lucy Beatrice Malleson…

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Classic crime round-up, Classic mystery book review, Golden Age detection, Information Received, Noir and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Classic crime in the blogosphere March 2013 – Women’s Mystery Month

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Rich – Thanks very much for the mention and the kind words – I appreciate it. And what a good idea to focus on Women’s Mystery Month this way. Oh, and by the way, I agree – we all should get some time off from work in observance.


  2. Holding is an impressive author and Stark House Press are doing us all a big favour by reprinting her work (10 novels so far).


  3. TracyK says:

    Thanks for these links to women writers of the Golden Age. I have been wanting to pick a month where I only read mysteries written by women. Don’t know if I can manage that, but I do have to remember about Anthony Gilbert being a pseudonym. I keep forgetting that.


  4. Christina says:

    Thanks for the link! I also enjoyed this post…as a fan of vintage mysteries, I’m always looking for new authors to try! Had to laugh out loud at the cover art for The Blank Wall…:)


  5. Curtis Evans says:

    I would say the cover of The Blank Wall is concerned with outer aspects rather than inner ones.


  6. Pingback: Women’s Mystery Month? Classic crime in the blogosphere: March 2014 | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

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